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I picked up The Unschooling Handbook at the library in the next town over when we made it into a day trip.  What can I say?  The most important feature to us in any community is the library.  We’re geeks.

They had a decent homeschooling section, and the topic of unschooling is mighty appealing to me.  I’d say we’re already half-way there with our relaxed way of doing school.  We keep holding onto a bit of guiding the kids’ learning though, because the idea of unschooling makes my husband panic.  Daddy is not a pretty sight when he panics about the kids’ schooling.  Usually lectures ensue.

If it were solely up to me, we would be unschoolers.  My views on how to guide the kids’ learning have changed as I’ve seen what my eldest son is capable of if I just leave him alone and let him pursue his own interests, at his own pace.  He reads voraciously.  I have no hope of keeping up with him or even keeping enough recommendations on hand.  Also, he is a bit of an obsessive learner, like I am.  If he gets on a topic that he’s interested in, he will explore it deeply until he is satisfied with the knowledge he’s attained.  He doesn’t like to divide his attention between a variety of topics throughout the day.  Some people just work that way.

For instance, he loves the Percy Jackson books.  This led to an exploration of all different ancient gods and myths.  His curiosity about ancient religions and mythology were spurred on by a series of novels which he found interesting.  That learning stint lasted at least a couple of months.

Now he has moved on to teaching himself JavaScript on Khan Academy.  I would never have suggested this avenue of learning, nor been able to teach it to him.  There is a benefit to allowing a child to pursue his/her own interests and letting their own curiosity set the pace.

So back to the book I’m reviewing.  The Unschooling Handbook is an excellent resource for anybody who wants to learn about unschooling, or who is already doing it themselves.  Not only is this a how-to of unschooling, but it includes a wealth of information from respondents to questions which the author disseminated.

Here is an outline of what you can find in the book:

  • Information on how to incorporate reading, writing, math, science, history, and the arts into unschooling
  • Discussion on practical matters–legal requirements, monetary and time limits, working with multiple children, support group info., how to cope with doubts & challenges, etc.
  • Lots of discussion on learning styles, educational philosophies, the parent’s role in unschooling, etc.
  • A ton of additional resource suggestions
  • Sample schedules or activity lists
  • Many anecdotes & observations from unschooling parents & children

I highly recommend this book to anybody who engages in unschooling or is considering that method.  I think the book would also be beneficial for parents who want to stick with a more conventional homeschooling method.  If nothing else–it may help them gain a bit more confidence in their child’s ability to learn and grow if allowed to blossom on their own timetable.

Here’s one of my favorite quotes from the book:

“Unschooling would be helpful to all children: It’s not one particular way of learning: it’s learning at your own level, in your own interest, and at your own pace.  What child wouldn’t benefit from a learning experience like that?”  (p.207)